Science behind happiness

Friday 12 de September 12:05 pm


Dra. Sonja Lyubomirsky

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Dra. Sonja Lyubomirsky

Sonja Lyubomirsky is Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside.  Originally from Russia, she received her A.B., summa cum laude, from Harvard University and her Ph.D. in Social/Personality Psychology from Stanford University. Lyubomirsky currently teaches courses in social psychology and positive psychology and serves as graduate advisor. Her teaching and mentoring of students have been recognized with two Faculty of the Year awards and a Faculty Mentor of the Year award. Lyubomirsky’s research – on the possibility of permanently increasing happiness — has been honored with Fellow status from three different scientific societies, a Science of Generosity grant, a John Templeton Foundation Grant, a Templeton Positive Psychology Prize, and (with Sheldon) a million-dollar grant from NIMH. Lyubomirsky’s best-selling 2008 book, The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want (Penguin Press) has been published in 22 countries, and her recent book, The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, But Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, But Does, is translated (or will be) in 16 countries.  Her work has been written up in hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, and she has appeared in multiple TV shows, radio shows, and feature documentaries in North America, South America, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.  She lives in Santa Monica, California, with her family.


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Ciencia detrás de la felicidad

Ciencia detrás de la felicidad

Ciencia detrás de la felicidad

Ciencia detrás de la felicidad


Happiness is measurable and has implications on people's health. Scientific studies have proven that those who feel happy have a stronger immune system, less risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack and are less likely to die of various causes, which range from organic causes to car accidents.

Based on this premise, Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside, explained that according to different measurements, people who consider themselves happy are also the most active and, as seen all through the SCL 2014, leading an active life is an infallible measure to keep our body in a strengthened and functionally stable condition.

As part of the second day of the Latin American Scientific Series, the expert originally from Russia, who received her A.B., summa cum laude, from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in Social/Personality Psychology from Stanford University, considered the reflection that has concerned sociologists, artists and philosophers throughout the history of man: Being happy is something of a universal longing.

How important is happiness for people? A study shown by Lyubomirsky shows that only in the United States, it is rated as something very important (on a scale from one to ten). A similar rating  is recorded in other countries including Greece, Germany, South Africa or Argentina.

Happiness has two components; on one side, positive emotions and, on the other, our level of satisfaction with life, which results from the significance we give to what we do. Having meaningful lives, doing things that are worth doing for us, makes us happier.

Happiness has a genetic basis; we are born with a predisposition towards happiness. For instance, one can have many children and notice than some are naturally happier than others. Genetics determine happiness in about 50%. However, apart from the 10% associated with external circumstances or context, about 40% of our happiness is determined by intentional activities, actions we carry out intentionally to feel happier.

What does science say about happiness? Scientific evidence shows that happiness does not just feel good but is good for your health. More than 225 studies provide evidence that happiness brings along benefits. The conclusion is that happy people:

  • Are more productive and more creative at work
  • Earn more money and have better jobs
  • Are better leaders and negotiators
  • Have more chances to get married, have happy marriages and less divorces
  • Have more friend and social support
  • Have robust immune systems, are psychologically healthier and live longer
  • Are more generous and philanthropic
  • Are more resilient to stress and trauma

Research findings show that happiness is a feature of personality.  However ,Lyubomirsky referred to the concept of “hedonist adaptation”, i.e. the capacity of human beings to get used to everything positive that happens to them. For example: getting married or having a salary raise. The happiness resulting form these events usually stays on for a while (science estimates a maximum of two years), then happiness fades away and you need to look for another stimulus to trigger happiness back again.

The expert pointed out that there is a relationship between motivation and happiness: in fact happy people are the most motivated. Though it seems obvious, we need to further analyze this process. We are motivated when we like something: it is not the same to go running unwillingly as doing it with pleasure and willingness.

However, Lyubomirsky stressed the fact that culture has a direct impact on the perception of happiness, as shown in another study with North American and South Korean students who were asked to write a thank-you letter. North Americans were happier than South Koreans since for the latter saying thank-you is something usual in their culture and they find it boring.